What is Executive Functions?

Executive function is a set of mental skills that helps you get things done. These skills are controlled by an area of the brain called the frontal lobe, according to WebMD.

Renown psychologists described their model and definition on executive functions:

Dr. Russell Barkley explains in his book, Taking Charge of ADHD, “that ADHD is a deficit in self-control (inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity) and on executive functioning (planning, organizing, managing emotions) over long periods of time”.

Dr. Thomas Brown model on executive functions (Activation, Focus, Effort, Emotion, Memory and Action) describes that deficits in executive functions impacts skills such as planning, organization, focusing, sustaining attention, regulating alertness, managing frustration, modulating emotions, accessing and recalling information, monitoring and regulating actions.  However, he tells us that regardless of how they are clustered “these executive functions tend to operate in an integrated way”

Dr. Peg Dawson and Dr. Guare explain the term executive skills refers to the “brain-based skills that are required for humans to execute, or perform tasks”



ADHD Symptom and Executive Function

You might have noticed the terms “executive functions, executive functioning or executive skills” used in these models.  In this content those terms are used interchangeably.

ADHD Symptom




Executive Function (Dr. Dawson & Dr. Guare’s Model)

Response Inhibition


Task Initiation

Emotional Control

Planning and Prioritization

Time Management

Working Memory

Goal-directed Persistence



Sustained Attention